Data Sheet—How Twitter Proved It Has a Real Business

February 9, 2018, 3:00 PM UTC

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I’m going to stick with the positive—I crowed yesterday about the non-demise of Snap, whose shares promptly dropped 7% in a sea of red Thursday—and talk today about the only green spot on my screen. I’m referring, of course, to Twitter, up 12% because it delivered the kind of surprise Wall Street likes.

That unexpected occurrence was Twitter having reported a rare profit, even if it was attributed not to impressive revenue growth (it was minuscule) but to lower expenses, largely due to decreased stock-based compensation. Twitter also grew its user base a bit and demonstrated an ability to improve its product. Longer messages, increased video inventory, and cleverer displays of messages all contributed to a sense of momentum at Twitter.

I’ve long said that Twitter, with its 300-million-plus users and nearly $3 billion in annualized revenues clearly has a business. Whether it grows and if it invests like a startup or a real company have always been the question marks. But at some level, with that kind of audience and that kind of sales volume Twitter has a business.

The market currently values that business at $22 billion, which hardly counts as a failure.


I read in The Economist that “tech firms have captured 42% of the rise of the value of America’s stock market since 2014.” If true, that’s astounding. The magazine’s point, by the way, is that such performance is unsustainable, and it may be right. But still.


Ho hum, Alibaba made another half-a-billion-dollar investment, this time in a retail-oriented data company, Shiji Retail Information Technology. Watch for Tencent to invest $750 million in something similar soon.


Have a good weekend.


Not close. Qualcomm rejected Broadcom’s increased, $82 per share takeover bid on Thursday. The offer "materially undervalues" The mobile chipmaker and "falls well short of the firm regulatory commitment" needed. Broadcom has also offered to include an $8 billon termination payment to Qualcomm if the deal was blocked by regulators. The two sides may meet in coming days to discuss the offer face to face.

Shiny new things. Wikipedia competitor Everipedia, which offers a snappy design and incorporates blockchain technology, raised $30 million for further expansion.

Ups and downs, mostly downs. On Wall Street, along with Twitter’s rise that Adam noted, Expedia was down 17% in premarket trading on Friday after reporting that expenses would rise faster than sales in 2018. That continues the fourth quarter trend that saw sales increase 11% (to $2.3 billion) but expenses jump 16%. Graphic card giant Nvidia blew past analyst expectations, reporting revenue jumped 34% to $2.9 billion and adjusted earnings per share of $1.72, up 52%. Its shares were up 10%. Also, the massive market sell off hit many tech stocks on Thursday. Apple lost 3%, while Microsoft, Facebook, Google and Intel were down 5%.

You like me, right now, you like me. The HomePod, Apple’s entry into the smart speaker market, hit stores on Friday and finally reached sufficient sales to be back ordered online, at least for a few days. Apple also addressed the leak of some three year old code from its iOS operating system, saying “by design the security of our products doesn't depend on the secrecy of our source code. There are many layers of hardware and software protections.” (Video headline hint.)

Speedy delivery. The latest leak about Amazon's delivery service ambition have put a scare into Fedex and UPS investors. Shares of both companies fell 4% in premarket trading on Friday morning after the Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon is starting a pilot program delivering packages to consumers in Los Angeles from third party sellers.

Mountain out of a molehill. China's Ant Financial Services plans to raise up to $5 billion in a private deal that could value the online payments provider associated with Alibaba at more than $100 billion, Reuters reported. Ant, which runs the popular Chinese payments network Alipay with more than 500 million users, would then go public later, Reuters said.

Danger. A possibly loose screw in some Lenovo laptops could piece the computers' batteries and cause a fire, the company said. In a recall notice, Lenovo asked owners of its recent 5th generation of Thinkpad X1 Carbon sold before November 1, 2017 to contact their service line at 1-800-426-7378 immediately.

Spreading their bets. Walmart may invest several billion dollars in Indian e-commerce startup Flipkart, Bloomberg reported. The deal would value Flipkart at about $20 billion, Bloomberg noted.


Elon Musk Said His Tesla Would Reach the Asteroid Belt. Astronomers Say He’s Wrong By Lisa Marie Segarra

A Facebook 'Dislike' Button? Site Is Experimenting With Reddit-Like Downvoting Instead By David Meyer

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Really Wants Toronto to Get Amazon's Second Headquarters By Jonathan Vanian

How to Watch the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics on TV and Online By Tom Huddleston Jr.

Here's Why Analysts Are Still Frustrated With Twitter Despite It Reporting Its First Profit By Chris Morris

Here's How Long It Takes to Upgrade Your Apple iPhone Battery By Jonathan Vanian


After the rollout of the Affordable Care Act suffered from major online glitches, the Obama administration created a new office, dubbed 18F, inside the General Services Administration to bring together the top information technology experts in the government and avoid future mistakes. But after ramping up to 300 people, the 18F initiative is now less than half that size. Daniel Castro is sounding the alarm, writing in Fed Scoop about the Trump administration's apparent neglect:

It has been slow to bring on staff, such as taking almost a year to appoint a new federal CIO. This matters because if agencies like 18F cannot recruit new talent, they will fail. As Dan Tangherlini, the former administrator of GSA, put it “[18F’s long-term viability] really comes down to whether they’re able to continue to attract the absolutely world-class people that they’ve been able to bring in over the last several years of their existence.”

If the Trump administration hopes to avoid the problems faced by its predecessor, it should not neglect the importance of recruiting top technical talent.


A few interesting longer reads I came across that are suitable for your weekend reading pleasure.

The Astronaut Who Might Actually Get Us to Mars (Texas Monthly)

In a cavernous warehouse behind a strip mall about three miles from the Johnson Space Center, just south of Houston, a Costa Rica–born scientist and former NASA astronaut named Franklin Chang Díaz has been tinkering with an unorthodox idea for the past thirteen years. The lab for his eleven-person company, Ad Astra, is roughly the size of a Barnes & Noble. But in the center of the room, rather than rows of romance novels, there are three stacks of gadgets resembling hi-fi stereo components. A few long tables and office chairs are scattered about. Along the back wall is the main event: a forty-ton stainless-steel cylindrical chamber that sits like a thirteen-foot-tall beer keg tipped on its side. If Franklin is right, this is the engine that will take us to Mars.

Silicon Valley’s Tax-Avoiding, Job-Killing, Soul-Sucking Machine (Esquire)

Four companies dominate our daily lives unlike any other in human history: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. We love our nifty phones and just-a-click-away services, but these behemoths enjoy unfettered economic domination and hoard riches on a scale not seen since the monopolies of the gilded age. The only logical conclusion? We must bust up big tech.

Forensic Science Put Jimmy Genrich in Prison for 24 Years. What if It Wasn’t Science? (The Nation)

During the trial, ErkenBrack and the trial judge, Nicholas Massaro, agreed that Genrich’s fate hung on the toolmarks, the only physical evidence that connected him to the bombs. In the early 1990s, few people challenged the foundations of forensic methods such as toolmark analysis. Since then, despite CSI-style portrayals of forensic analysts as crime-solving oracles, prominent scientists and criminal-justice experts have questioned many of the “pattern-matching” disciplines that rely on comparisons of bite marks, hairs, shoe prints, tire tracks, or fingerprints. These are different from, say, forensic DNA analysis, which relies on scientific principles like the known variations in the human genome.

The White Darkness: A Solitary Journey Across Antarctica (The New Yorker)

The man, whose name was Henry Worsley, consulted a G.P.S. device to determine precisely where he was. According to his coördinates, he was on the Titan Dome, an ice formation near the South Pole that rises more than ten thousand feet above sea level. Sixty-two days earlier, on November 13, 2015, he’d set out from the coast of Antarctica, hoping to achieve what his hero, Ernest Shackleton, had failed to do a century earlier: to trek on foot from one side of the continent to the other.


Ever been nearly unable to stop playing a video game? The first few versions of Sid Meier's Civilization had that effect on me. I lost interest years ago, but the newest incarnation, called Civilization VI: Rise and Fall, looks kind of crazy complicated in a good way.

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman. Find past issues, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters.

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